Bolsonaro opens the door to peaceful transfer of power in Brazil

The president – while not officially conceding – finally gave a brief statement to reporters two days after losing the elections to Lula

Two days after losing the presidential elections, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reads a statement in the Alvorada Palace, his official residence in Brasilia, on Tuesday, November 1, 2022.
Two days after losing the presidential elections, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reads a statement in the Alvorada Palace, his official residence in Brasilia, on Tuesday, November 1, 2022.Joédson Alves (EFE)

Nearly 48 hours after becoming the first president in Brazilian history to lose a re-election bid, Jair Messias Bolsonaro finally addressed the media.

While he did not explicitly admit his defeat nor mention the victor – former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as “Lula” – he did seem to tacitly accept that his time in power was coming to an end.

“As president and as a citizen I will continue to follow all the commandments of our Constitution,” he said, while flanked by members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, the two legislative bodies that his allies now firmly control.

After giving his two-minute statement, Bolsonaro, 67, refused to take questions and withdrew to a different part of the Alvorada Palace, the official residence of the Brazilian president. Chief of Staff Ciro Nogueira then told reporters that the president had authorized him to “begin the transition process.”

While Bolsonaro has taken pains to save face in front of his most hardline supporters, it is now evident that he will not impede the legal transfer of power. The newly-elected government will be able to take over in January with the assistance of the outgoing administration.

Since the 77-year-old Lula won the elections on Sunday, Bolsonaro’s allies – including ministers, governors and senators – have acknowledged that their candidate was defeated. However, the incumbent president’s silence kept doubts alive that he would refuse to recognize the results. On Tuesday, November 1, however, those doubts seem to have been put to rest.

The results of the 2022 presidential elections were the closest in history. Lula, of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), received 50.9% of the vote, with the right-wing Bolsonaro, of the Liberal Party, close behind at 49.1%. Brazil’s electronic voting system – in place for more than 25 years – meant that the tabulations were done quickly. By early Sunday night, the Superior Electoral Count proclaimed Lula – who governed from 2003 until 2011 – the victor. Foreign ambassadors were even invited to the headquarters in Brasília to witness the recount.

The heads of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate – both allies of Bolsonaro – immediately recognized Lula’s victory. Similarly, Bolsonaro’s inner circle did not initiate any form of legal challenge to the results. The fear of something similar to the January 6 riots on the US Capitol taking place in Brazil quickly dissipated.

Lula’s team and members of Bolsonaro’s cabinet will begin a joint transition process on Wednesday. Following the president’s appearance, the Superior Electoral Court released a statement expressing relief that the government was “determined to start the transition” and that the president had “recognized the final results of the election.”

In his comments, Bolsonaro addressed the road blockages that his supporters have initiated around Brazil. While he said that peaceful protests were “welcome,” he urged citizens to not embrace “the methods used by the left, like the occupation of property.” He said that the demonstrations are “the results of indignation and injustice.”

While he ultimately lost the presidential elections, Bolsonaro managed to secure 58 million votes. His allies also managed to win several key gubernatorial races and take control of the legislative branch. He has made it clear that, while he will have to leave the presidential palace, he and his conservative movement won’t be going anywhere.

After thanking those who gave him their vote, Bolsonaro celebrated the fact that “the right has surged in our country.”

“Our solid representation in Congress shows the strength of our values: God, country, family and freedom.”

This is the first electoral defeat that Bolsonaro has ever experienced in his political career. The former army captain served as a city councillor and congressman from Rio de Janeiro for nearly 30 years before being elected to the presidency in 2018. His three adult sons all currently hold political office.

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